Joss Stone: Love Change, Pt 1

It has been said that the young soul siren Joss Stone is quite out of the ordinary. Spend a few hours with her and you’ll find that it’s pleasantly true. As Joss rounds the corner of 20, she has already performed and collaborated with legends that she will undoubtedly refer to one day as her […]

It has been said that the young soul siren Joss Stone is quite out of the ordinary. Spend a few hours with her and you’ll find that it’s pleasantly true. As Joss rounds the corner of 20, she has already performed and collaborated with legends that she will undoubtedly refer to one day as her peers. Her third LP Introducing Joss Stone brings the real Joss Stone back…for the very first time.

In this in-depth interview, Joss discusses the theory behind her newly pink locks, her visit to New York’s graffiti haven 5 Pointz, and her muse Raphael Saadiq. The self-managed songstress also explains her near-miss collaboration with the great Aretha Franklin and her success in having Lauryn Hill perform on her bold new record. Alternatives: The interesting thing about you as an artist, a soulful white artist, is that you were immediately classified as R&B. But when you take artists like Justin Timberlake, it took a lot more for them to achieve that Soul title as opposed to Pop. Why do you feel it was different for you?

Joss Stone: I just sang, and they really didn’t get the chance to do that I guess. Maybe they were pushed into something they didn’t want to do. To be honest, to define the word soul is really impossible. They’re like, “What is Soul music?” and I’m like, “I don’t know.” You have to figure it out as you go along. There are so many different styles of music that I would call soulful. I don’t know whether I’m R&B, Rock, or Hip-Hop, Reggae, what the hell is it? Blues? I don’t know. I kinda just mash it up and make it up. I mean. I love Justin Timberlake. That man is soulful. Whether he’s white, pink or purple, it makes no difference.

The problem is with pigeonholing today it’s all made by media, and [the labels] need those pigeonholes in order to sell the albums. It’s like they need to label it. Really it doesn’t deserve a label because it’s not possible to do so. Like, Justin, I would say yeah he’s poppy, but his voice is soulful. But the production, that’s not classic Soul; that’s not classic R&B. Every album he’s had has been different, which I think is wicked. That “Senorita” situation – f*cking loved it! I listened to every song. I thought it was brilliant. I wouldn’t call [Justin] straight Pop; he’s soulful. There’s nothing we can do about it. He’s sexy with it; and yes he did bring sexy back, but I think sexy was already kinda taking over the airwaves. It’s really not about that, Justin…honey. But I like him. Plus he’s f*cking gorgeous.

[Girl talk banter ensues over the breakup between Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz and the marriage debate]

Joss: If I ever get married, it won’t be legally. Why do I need to be legally bound to you for the rest of my life? If you really want to marry me, let’s get married spiritually – me, you, and God. I don’t need no f*ckin’ contract. It’s ridiculous. The whole concept of marriage has changed drastically. It’s like 60% divorce now. It’s sad because these people are promising God; they’re not just promising their government. And they go back on [their word]. That’s what upsets me. In sickness and in health, honey. Doesn’t matter if it’s mental sickness or not. People can be f*ckin’ mentally ill and clinically insane but you promised. You swore that you would be with this man through sickness and through health ’til death do you part. Wow.

AHHA: Should’ve written their own vows.

Joss: [laugh] You gotta write your own vows. Those words are so…you said ‘em now. There’s no loophole to go through. Silly f*cks. Oh well. [laughs]

AHHA: Do you feel that new school artists who aren’t up on old school soul are missing out?

Joss: Yes I do think they’re missing out, but if they heard it and dislike it then, no I don’t. If they’re not exposed to it, I think that’s kind of unfair. So let’s show them just in case they like it. Just so people have a means to hear it. Doesn’t matter if they pay for it or not. Download it. People get mad when I say that, but I’ll say it. If you find a way to hear music – it’s nice if you can support because then we can keep making music. It does help, but if you can’t f*ckin’ find it, grab it, take it from somewhere. Share the music, burn it. I just want the world to hear it. That’s the most important thing for me and my album.

But it’s not just me, it’s like all the other artists. All the young kids today, they never heard of Aretha Franklin or Al Green. That’s a shame. That’s why I’m trying to make that change. Talk about them a lot so they can hear it. I had a little girl come up to me a while back; she was like 12. She said, “Joss, I never heard of Aretha Franklin, but I heard you liked her so I got her album and now I love Aretha Franklin.” That’s what I was trying to achieve. It was so cool.

AHHA: In your short time in this industry you’ve done about 150 things that most artists dream of doing with people they dream of collaborating with. Do you still have any dream collaborations?

Joss: I’ve gotta sing with Aretha. I’m trying. I called her to have her sing on this album months back. She said she would sing on this album. I got her number and left her a message. I was so scared. I said, “Hi it’s Joss Stone. I don’t know if you know me, but I met you at the Superbowl. I’m in love with you as a singer. You inspire me. You really are the reason why I sing. You and Lauryn [Hill].” [Aretha] is the best singer the world has ever seen. The woman is ridiculous as a vocalist. So I said, “If you want to come on my record to play, you want to sing, if you just want to breathe on my album, please come.” She called me back. [laughs]

When I picked up my phone and it said Aretha Franklin calling…[gasps] So I sent her the song. She heard it and calls me back. Very businesslike. “I’ve heard the song, and yes, I will sing it.” That’s exactly how she said it. I was like, “Ok what do you need?” She said, “I need an agreement.” I go, “Ok I will get you an agreement.” Her lawyer would not call me back. I had the song, she liked the song, was ready to sing it. Aretha said yes. You better f*cking call me back. So I flew to Detroit and sat in his office for three hours.

AHHA: Did you really?

Joss: Yes I did. I was not having him stand in the way between me and Aretha Franklin. And my management at the time were like c*cksuckers, so they wouldn’t do anything. It had been months, so I was like, ”Marty” – the guy who was my manager – ”here is the number for the lawyer, can you please sort it out for me?” I never asked him to do anything, because they don’t really do anything. The man couldn’t get it done. With me, I’ll call everyday about seven times a day because that’s how you get things done in life. If you are driven, be driven. He was a real “dear” about it too. “Well she should be calling you back.” Don’t even. This is Aretha Franklin and I want her to be on my album, not the other way around. So I was like, “Ok how many times did you call her?” He said, “Four or five.” Which means “two or three.”

So I got on a plane in the middle of my mixing here [in New York] and it was too late. But I came back here with an agreement in my hand. I tried. I went [to his office] and was like, “I know you are busy, but when you have 20 minutes come out here and chat with me. I’ll be here all day.” His assistant lady was like, “Oh he’s not in today.” I was like, “That’s ok, I will sit here until he comes back.” He was in. I walked out for a cigarette and came back and said, “Is he back?” and she said, “Oh yeah he just got back from a lunch break. Is there anything you want to drop off for him or a message or…” I was like, ”No I just want to see him and talk to him. ” She was like, ”You need to make an appointment.” I was like, ”That’s ok honey I’m here now.” I plugged my phone in, got my magazines out, got my laptop out. He came out after two hours all rushed. I was like, ”It’s ok I don’t wanna waste your time. I just need you to give me the agreement so we can get this rolling. Since you can’t talk on the phone, I thought I’d come see you.” He was like, ”You can’t get mad if I don’t call you back, I’m busy. ” I was like, ”Honey I don’t get mad, I just turn up.”

The agreement was atrocious. I was like properly f*cked. I don’t care. Take my house. You can’t take my dogs, but you can take everything I own. Of course my lawyer was like, “You’re not doing this.” [Aretha] gave me some dates, but she was so busy. She’s Aretha Franklin. She was recording her own album. She had all these things she had to go to. So in the end it got so late, I had to turn in the record. I pushed it back a couple times. But you know what? I’m gonna sing 100 albums, and the woman’s gonna be on one of them. I’m not gonna let go of it. Not until the day I die. You’re gonna have to run me over with a bus before I let go of that one. One day it will happen. But I got Lauryn…

AHHA: Talk about that collaboration with Lauryn Hill.

Joss: She came on my record, and just…the things she said. She’s L-Boogie on it. I’m talking about music on it [sings] Music, I’m so in love with my music. It’s like a love song. Sounds like I’m talking to a bloke at the beginning but I’m talking to music. I had a moment when I was writing. You know how we all go through life looking for the love of our lives and the unconditional? I don’t think that exists. I realize now that unconditional love in a human being is really kind of borderline impossible to find. If I kill my sister my mum won’t love me anymore. It’s ok; it’s a little bit conditional. Even with parents. So I’m driving home thinking if that unconditional exists anywhere, it’s in music and it exists in God. Doesn’t matter how little you have, you have both of those things. So that’s what the song was about.

I was like, “I have to have Lauryn on it.” Everyone looked at me crazy, like “Girl it’s not gonna happen. Let it go.” I’m like, “Yes it is. Let’s be positive.” I don’t know what the f### I was doing. I’m some 19 year old chick from Devon, England. I come over here thinking I could have Lauryn Hill on my record. Must be crazy, but then again I think I am a little crazy. I admit it, and I like being crazy. So I got [Lauryn’s] number. My friend Paul gave it to me. He used to tour manage me. He tour managed Lauryn for about five seconds. He gave me her email address, her number, and her mum’s number. Her number didn’t work anymore. I sent her a long email, but I don’t know…I have five email addresses so I understand.

Then I called her mum. I spoke to her every day for two months. The poor woman. She just had to deal with me. I felt bad for her, I was like “Hi again! Did you get an answer back?” I sent the song like three times. I was like, “I don’t mean to be buggin’, but I can’t go away until I get an answer, and I know you can’t give me one right now because you don’t got one, but I don’t mean to be annoying. I have to do this.” In the end her mum got me the person who was kind of managing Lauryn and I told him the same thing. After a few weeks he got a hold of her. She heard it, went in the studio and did it. I cried at the things that she said. She f*ckin’ killed it. I love her so much. And it’s just about music. These horns come in and these strings. It’s real instruments man; all my drums are live.